HPV, abnormal cells, high grade dyskaryosis - it's all very scary. But please, try not to panic.
Have you ever received this letter?
I got it last year after going for a cervical screening, which was delayed, due to my miscarriage and subsequent pregnancy.
It informed me that I had HPV (human papillomavirus) - a common virus that usually goes away on its own but can cause abnormal cells in your cervix, which can, over time, turn into cancer if left untreated.
The test also showed that I did have some abnormal cells in my cervix. High grade (severe) dyskaryosis means the full thickness of the cervix surface is affected.
Whilst it’s unlikely this means you already have cervical cancer, it is important to get treatment ASAP, to remove the abnormal area so these cells don’t develop into cancer.
Needless to say, I was scared.
My Great Grandmother died young (we don’t know what of because people avoided hospitals in those days, but there’s a good chance it was cancer) and 4 years ago we lost my Mum to cancer too.
I must admit I went into a bit of a panic, thinking “this is it - I’ve finally had my first child and it’s all going to be taken away from me.”
I was kicking myself for delaying the screening, thinking “if only I’d gone sooner, maybe they’d have discovered it before any changes had occurred.”
I didn’t know much about HPV or how common it is.
“High grade dyskaryosis” sounded very scary too. I didn’t know how easy that was to treat.
That’s why I’m sharing this with you now….
Because I want you to know that HPV is really common (8 in 10 of us will get HPV at some point).
And I want to reassure you that cell changes (even “severe”) are really treatable, as long as you act quickly.
As advised, I went for my colposcopy and the doctor recommended an immediate LLETZ procedure - Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone. That’s where they use a thin, electrically-heated wire loop to remove the abnormal cells. It’s done under local anaesthetic and you’re awake the whole time.
I was surprised at how painless it was.
I mean it wasn’t an experience I’d like to repeat on a weekly basis, but it was really only mildly uncomfortable and recovery was quick.
6 months later, I went for another smear test and the results came back negative.
No changes or concerns.
Why am I sharing this intensely personal story?
First of all, to help encourage more of you to go for that regular cervical screening. Don’t put it off, just go as soon as they alert you.
But secondly, to help reduce the fear for anyone else who receives this letter.
If you do get a result like this, don’t panic!
Be pleased that they found it, that it’s easily treated and that you have plenty of support available.
Be aware that thousands of women are going through the exact same thing and you are far from alone.
If you’re going through something similar, please feel free to DM me if you need some support or check out Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust who do amazing work educating about cervical cancer and supporting those going through it.